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Topping-Out at MassArt!
June 17, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Despite sporadic heavy rain earlier today, Ironworkers from Local 7 set the final piece of steel atop the 21-story New Residence Hall at Massachusetts College of Art and Design under clear skies. The topping-out ceremony was attended by MassArt President Kay Sloan, faculty, staff, and students from MassArt, MSCBA staff, and board members from both MassArt and MSCBA. A retirement reception for President Sloan was held following the ceremony.

A topping-out ceremony - a longstanding tradition in the construction industry - commemorates the placing of the last beam at the top of a building. In timber frame construction, often a fir tree and/or a flag is placed on the highest beam.  The origin of this practice has been traced to Scandinavia around 700 A.D., with a variety of explanations for why it began.  Norse mythology, for instance, makes references to trees, maintaining that human life began from a tree - the tree of life.  The tree may have symbolized bringing life to the building, or could have been offered to the deities as an appreciation for provision of timber. 

The ceremony has evolved in the United States, specifically with high-rise buildings, such as the MassArt Residence Hall.  For these types of very tall structures, the last beam to be hoisted is painted white and signed by everyone involved with the project. In current times, the topping-out ceremony serves to illustrate the milestone of a fully erected structure and to celebrate the efforts of the workers to achieve this project milestone. 

For MassArt, the topping-out of the New Residence Hall not only marks a milestone in the construction project, but a milestone for the University, coinciding with the launch of the College's capital campaign. 

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